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Archive for the ‘General News’ Category

Yes, I keep writing these recaps. Here’s the latest.

Week 6

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We really don’t like our banks do we. We complain about the big four banks raising interest rates, not for once considering that banks are a privately run business whose sole function is to make money, even though small business owners complain when governments make laws and regulations which don’t allow them to sack anyone for any reason at any time, even though those same small business owners complain about the big banks usurious practices and want the government to make rules and regulations about how banks run their businesses, at the same time as complaining about how government passes laws and regulations that forces them to do more paperwork so that their employees are protected should some horrific accident befall them, while concurrently complaining about the anti-competitive nature of service stations and price-fixing, all the while complaining about the prohibitive costs of insurance and if you don’t like it why don’t you go to the USA where you can guarantee that soon enough you won’t have a functioning government at all and see how you like that you MORON!

Sorry about that. Back to the issue at hand.

The big banks usurious practices have been in the news this week. Notwithstanding that they make record profits, they claim that the costs of financing their lending are ever rising and they have to put interest rates up by more than the amount that the RBA has raised the cash rate. On top of that, they engage in a form of price signaling by offering warnings that their costs of funding are rising and they are operating on a super tight margin. I guess the billion dollar profits must come as a surprise then.

This bank bashing has led to some arguing that what Australia needs is a Peoples Bank. Now, before you get excited about the prospect of a bank where you can deposit your excess people, or borrow some extra people for, I don’t know, the purpose of filling out those spare seats at your spotty son’s 21st birthday party, let me explain what a People’s Bank is. It is a bank owned by the people, for the people, which, supposedly in this situation, would offer basic deposit and lending needs to those who are sick of walking into one of the four big banks, bending over and saying “Here is my bottom, please insert yourself inside!”

Now, I am not going to preach to you about the evil deed of the greedy, blood sucking, corpse rogering, big four banks, nor the merits of breaking the monopoly and creating a real and viable alternative that would lend money based on fair and reasonable trading practices as well as offer a short-term layover option for Santa Claus during Christmas. No sir. I’m impartial.

What I do want to talk about is taking the idea of a People’s Bank to the next level. We all want a place to store money, and a place from where we can borrow money that is trustworthy and fair. We also want a place where we can store ideas and borrow inspiration, a place that is easily accessible by all, and open and free. A place where we can let the world see our inspirations and a place where we can borrow the fantasies of others, to see what “turns them on” so to speak.

Now I’m not talking about art. I’m not talking about music, poetry, dancing, or your little “stories”. I’m not talking about designs and inventions. We already have depositories for those things. What I am talking about is sharing our deepest and darkest desires. A place to store our fantasies and share them with the world. A place where, bereft of inspiration, we can see what’s on offer, and maybe learn a thing or two about ourselves.

You know that phrase, when someone sees an image that they believe might be sufficient in the pursuit of some pleasurable self-gratification, but their current situation means that they can’t reach down and lend a hand, so to speak, for fear of being ridiculed and/or arrested? “I’ll put it in the wank bank!” they say. Yet how many of us have rocked up to the nearest branch of our own wank banks, or to the nearest wank bank ATM and discovered that we have insufficient funds, are overdrawn, or that our accounts have been closed because the Russian Mafia has hacked our passwords. In other words, when the opportunity arises, we have no material.

The People’s Wank Bank could change all that. Imagine a teenage boy (let’s make him 18 to avoid any accusations of child pornography) comes home, and finds that mum, dad and a number of unspecified siblings are all out. Opportunity! But, alas, he tries to tap into his wank bank and guess what? Because he has been continually withdrawing funds from the wank bank leading up to this moment, the administrative charges for each withdrawal have led to his account being overdrawn! But if he were a member of the People’s Wank Bank, he could tap into the collective “dirty” consciousness of ten thousand other 18-year-old boys and, PRESTO, plenty of material for the 20 second interlude. FTW!

I understand there are risks. What, I hear you ask, would happen if an innocent and unsuspecting individual should come across a deposit made by Justin Bieber? How, I hear you plead, could you justify someone stumbling across the image of a naked Margaret Thatcher? Why, I hear you moan, won’t you use your time productively? These are all valid questions, and I understand your concerns. But we can minimise the risks. When you apply for a loan, you can specify your needs. The more detailed the application, the better. So if you want a blond on all fours, make sure you specify human, because if you don’t you could end up with a Joel Monaghan deposit.

This is an idea with merit, but it can’t work without your input. The People’s Wank Bank must be run by the people. We can’t get out funding from the RBA. Can you imagine what Glen Stevens would give us? We can’t get our funding from overseas, lest we get Glenn Beck’s imaginings of a chained and gagged Rush Limbaugh. The People’s Wank Bank relies on YOU!

Give generously.

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It seems these days that you only need glance at the newspapers or flick on the TV news to see another story about some sportsman or another being accused of sexual assault. The veracity of these allegations have or may be tested in court and I know enough about the law to keep my mouth shut regarding the relevant guilt or innocence of the alleged offenders. But what I do want to write about are the comments coming from many in the media criticising the women (or in some cases, girls) involved, and defending the men.

Frankly, I think most of these commentators show a distinct lack of empathy, decency, common sense, and general knowledge of some fairly fundamental and basic legal concepts. They lack empathy because they fail reflect on the difficult circumstances that the women are placed in and assume that these women must be loose or sluts. The lack decency because they fail to do the right thing, which is to shut their mouths and wait for the legal system to sort it out. They lack common sense because they fail to realise that their comments will be taken in context (as opposed to out of context as they invariably complain) and be controversial (unless you want to be controversial, as per Miranda Devine). They lack a general knowledge of basic legal concepts, or purposely ignore them, because we should all know, by now, that consent is not simply a yes or no proposition. If you listen to some of these unqualified commentators, you would assume that if a women dresses in a certain way, or travels to a certain destination with a man, they are giving that man consent to have sex with them. But sex isn’t contract law.

It is this last point about consent that I have a problem with. Let’s go through some of the comments that have attracted media attention. First there is Peter “Spida” Everitt. Everitt tweeted:

Yet another alleged girl, making alleged allegations, after she awoke with an alleged hangover and I take it an alleged guilty conscience

and

Girls!! When will you learn! At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy ITS NOT FOR A CUP OF MILO! Allegedly……

Everitt appears to assume that the woman in question, and women who accuse footballers, do so because they regret sleeping with them, not because they believe they have been sexually assaulted. If Everitt bothered to educate himself before shooting his mouth off, he would come to realise that cases of sexual assault are underreported and that convictions are difficult to come by. So would a woman put herself through the pain and humiliation of an investigation and hearing because she was embarrassed about sleeping with someone? To me it seems unlikely, and I have to wonder why anyone would think otherwise.

But the worse thing that Everitt does is to place the responsibility all in the hands of women. He is saying that women who go home with men at 3am when they are intoxicated are responsible for what happens next, not the men themselves. In other words, men are entitled to be completely abrogated from the consequences of their actions if they are able to get a drunk woman in their bed in the early hours of the morning. Of course, what he is really saying is, they asked for it. His comments are no better than the raw meat comments of Sheik Hilali, but with less condemnation.

Then there was Kerri Anne Kennerly (or KAK: a fitting acronym). Interviewing Everitt, she said that footballers, “put themselves in harm’s way by picking up strays”. This is a pretty judgmental comment from KAK. It is also completely the wrong way around. Footballers are not in harm’s way. There is always this talk about damage to reputations when allegations are made, but can we just put this myth to bed? What damage, exactly, has Matthew Johns suffered, for example? I can’t think of any sportsman who has been accused of sexual assault or rape, but not found guilty by a court, who to this day suffers as a result. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

The people in harm’s way are the women, and, yes, they may be putting themselves in harm’s way when they drink to excess and go home with a footballer. But that doesn’t mean that the man is any less responsible for what he does next. Nor does the fact that the man was intoxicated reduce his culpability in these situations. In NSW, the Crimes Act 1900 specifically precludes a defence of intoxication where the person self-administered the alcohol. I believe the situation in Victoria may be similar (again, feel free to correct me if I am wrong). However, both Everitt and KAK have decided that, notwithstanding the law, men should not be responsible for the actions when they are drunk.

KAK’s comments were clarified by her network, which released a statement saying, “The responsibility lies with the girls as well as with the guys when you’re talking about alcohol-fuelled situations at three o’clock in the morning.”
This should be a salutary warning to all of us. If you drink, not only does that diminish the culpability of anyone that subsequently rapes or sexually assaults you, but it also means that if you are mugged, assaulted, run over or murdered, the perpetrator can use the well know defence of, “”Well I may have killed him your Honour, but HE was drunk”. It’s all bull shit of course.

Over on his blog Ben Pobjie’s Wonderful World of Objects Ben Pobjie provided an easy to follow guide for not raping. I urge you to read it, not only because Ben Pobjie is extremely funny, but because it contains an important, and commonly missed, message: not raping is not that hard. Even more to the point of this post, you should read some of the comments, particularly made by those who choose an “anonymous” title. It is apparent from some that the whole media focus of blaming women for being drunk when they are raped or sexually assaulted is having an impact on the general public. For example,

How does it work if the dude is also drunk? Surely if she is absolved of having given consent because she is drunk then he is likewise absolved of taking advantage of the situation.

The problem with this comment is that the maker doesn’t recognise that not giving consent can be a passive act, whereby having sex, no matter how out of it you are, is an active act. Why doesn’t the commenter recognise this fact? I would have thought it was pretty simple.

From the same commenter:

What would happen if a guy woke up the next morning and was like “I didn’t really want to do that, she raped me.” and he went to the cops, he’d be laughed out of the station.

Unfortunately, that might happen. However, that doesn’t make it right, and in fact the man would have just as much right to claim he was sexually assaulted, or at least indecently assaulted. The fact that the implementing and the policing of the law can discriminate based on gender, does not mean that the law itself discriminates.

How about this:

But are we seriously saying that a drunk woman is incapable of making a decision about consent, but an equally drunk man is capable of making a decision for both people?

Nope. We are not saying that a drunk woman is incapable of making a decision about consent. What we are saying is that a woman who is intoxicated may not be in a position to give consent. It really isn’t that hard. If a woman is slurring her words, her eyes are half open, if she’s stumbling around and struggling to stay upright, chances are she is in no fit state to consent. If a man can’t see that then he is clearly brain damaged. Nor are we saying an equally drunk man is capable of making a decision for both people. He is only capable of making a decision for himself. But he has two decisions to make. Decision one is, “Should I drink so much that I might do something wrong and illegal?” And decision two is, “Should I have sex with this woman/man?”

Q and A on Monday had a predominately sport themed panel and of course this issue was raised. Some of the opinions aired leave a lot to be desired, which in a way is good, because the more often we hear these outdated ideas of diminished responsibility, the more opportunities we get to tear it to shreds (Twitter is a remarkably useful tool in that regard). I can’t remember exactly what each member of the panel (consisting of Roy Masters, Lisa Forrest, Kelly O’Dwyer, Mark Arbib and Geoff Lawson) said specifically, but if I show you some of my tweets, you may get an idea:

Yes, women. Listen to the panel. You must never, ever, drink. That is for men. So saith the panel #qanda

Alcohol is not the problem. Cock heads are the problem #qanda

If sex is a way sportsmen bond, why can’t they just have sex with each other? #qanda

Let’s blame the bad behaviour on the arseholes behaving badly #qanda

I hate to be repetitive, but isn’t it up to the arseholes to stop being arseholes? #qanda

Obviously, then, some on the panel were under the impression that sportsmen, when alcohol is involved, apparently have no control over themselves and we, as society, should recognise that. Women, they seem to be saying, should not put themselves in these situations. And the relevant sporting bodies, they also seem to be saying, should assert some control over their players’ behaviours.

This is all bad enough, and sportsmen and women, and media personalities alike, really should know and do know better. But I think that some of the statements that have come from the commentators and commenters I’ve referred to above stem from ignorance and laziness. The same cannot be said of the next one.

Today, Miranda Devine’s blog refers to an incident from a Sydney Catholic school. Three schoolboys were expelled from said school because of a complaint made by a thirteen year old fellow female student that they touched her breast. Another girl made a similar allegation. The boys, says Devine, claim it was consensual.

This raises an interesting question of consent. Consent to sexual intercourse cannot be given by a 13 or 14 year old. But touching someone’s breast is not sexual intercourse. If the person performing that act was to be charged with anything, it would most likely be indecent assault, or an act of indecency. Consent of a person under 16 years of age is not a defence to indecent assault, but it can be a defence to an act of indecency. Of course, in this case we are talking about boys aged 14 years or less, and charging anyone of that age is difficult. Not only would a prosecutor have to prove they had the intention to commit the act and that they committed the act, but also that they had the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong (criminal lawyers can correct me if I have stated this incorrectly).

But the criminality or otherwise of these acts should not be the topic of conjecture. Let the police deal with that. What has happened is that the three boys have been expelled, and that is a choice open to the relevant school. Expulsion is neither indicative of, nor should be taken as an admission of, an offence having been committed.

What I have a problem with is the tone of Devine’s article. She can write, if she wishes, that she thinks the boys have been treated unfairly. But that’s not what she does. Rather, she victimises the girls. She places the boys on a pedestal, pointing out that they are handsome, and excellent rugby league players. As if these are qualities of innocence. In doing this she demeans the alleged victims and calls into question their character. By describing the boys as she has done, she is saying to us that they are popular, and it is not surprising that these girls want their attention. It’s only when the boys give them that attention, then cast them aside, that they scream for justice.

Devine’s article is based mostly on the statements of the parent of at least one of the boys. We never get to hear the girl’s side of the story. But there is a familiar theme here. A young girl, in the presence of handsome, athletic, young men, is coerced into performing an act, or allowing something to be done to her. It sounds all too familiar.

Devine should know better. Unlike Everitt, KAK and some on the Q and A panel, I suspect Devine know what she is writing is bullshit. But she is a hired gun, brought back to News Ltd to be controversial. She is neither misguided, nor ignorant, nor lazy. She is purposeful in her unfair attack on girls who are barely teenagers. Does she know what impact the event will have on those girls? Does she care? She really should be ashamed of herself.

Too often these days, sportsmen, and  other celebrities, behave badly, even commit crimes, and shrug it off as the normal actions of one of the lads. They cry poor me, saying they have a problem with alcohol, or they had a troubled childhood, or the woman was throwing herself at me. What’s wrong with taking responsibility for your own actions. Why can’t just one of them, rather than saying “I have a problem with alcohol”, instead say, “I am a dickhead. Treat me as such.” Of course, it won’t happen while the media offers them support and attacks the real victims.

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When I was a young boy, I really didn’t set out to achieve too much. As a red head, or “ranga” as I would be popularly known now (please note, when I say ‘popularly’ I do not mean that I would be popular), step-child, my greatest achievement was just to survive the day-to-day bullying that someone in my position invariably receives. Now, as an adult, I still don’t go out of my way to set the world on fire. I like to occupy the high achievers/under achievers middle ground. At least I do that well.

So when I read and hear and see that a 16 year Jessica Watson is able to sail around the world on her own, I feel a little embarrassed. When I read that thirteen year old Jordan Romero has scaled Mount Everest, I feel a little mediocre. When I discover that the same 13-year-old has scaled the highest peaks on five other continents, I feel downright inferior. Now a 14-year-old is trying to sail around the world and break Watson’s (non-existent) record. What next? Travelling toddlers? Embryonic explorers? Sailing sperm?

I am sure I am not alone here. Let’s be honest with each other. We may pretend that we admire these children and their achievements, but deep down inside we are aching to say to their parents, “Why can’t they just stay out late, listen to loud music and develop acne like all other children”. While we may say, “It’s admirable that someone so young has so much drive and determination”, we are really saying, “Clearly their parents have too much money and no idea of discipline”. When you think about, does anyone really admire Doogie Howser? Is there anyone alive who can look at a precocious child genius and not get the urge to shake their parents and say “You have created a monster”? I doubt it.

What these overachiever children are is an affront to the mediocre, the lazy and the half- arsed citizens of the world. Clearly, the children and their parents don’t like each other. Why else would one party seek to spend as much time away from the other party as possible? So why, if their parents can’t stand the sight of them, are they foisted on the rest of us?

In much the same way that the idea of punishing parents for the crimes of their children is the idea de jour around the time of every state election, so should we investigate the idea of punishing the parents of overachiever children. After all, it is they who have pushed their children to this point and it is they who must pay the price. A full day’s viewing of Two and a Half Men is a good starting point. That way they can see how a precocious child appears to the rest of us.

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